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Michael A. Cohen

Who’s to blame for America’s civility crisis?

President Trump spoke Monday at a rally for South Carolina’s governor, Henry McMaster, in West Columbia, S.C.Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

OVER THE PAST several days, official Washington has been engaged in a very serious public debate about civility in politics. The impetus for this discussion has largely come about because of the actions of Democrats and their supporters. On Friday, the owner of Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. This came on the heels of restaurant protests against Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and White House aide Stephen Miller because of their complicity with the White House’s family separation policy.

Then over the weekend, Representative Maxine Waters of California was captured on video telling her supporters that if they see someone from Trump’s Cabinet “you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”


Throw in Robert De Niro’s profane denunciation of the president at the Tony Awards and Samantha Bee’s gross insult of Ivanka Trump, and apparently political discourse in America has suddenly become coarsened.

It made me wonder: Is there one person disproportionately responsible for this decline in political civility? Could it be President Trump?

Let’s take a look at his Twitter feed to see if perhaps he is contributing to the growing incivility in American politics.

In the last month, Trump has, on Twitter, called:

Senator Jeff Flake “a flake.”

Senator Tim Kaine a “stiff.”

Hillary Clinton “Crooked.”

Senator Chuck Schumer “Cryin.’ ”

Former CIA director John Brennan a “a liar.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest & weak.”

Representative Conor Lamb “LambTheSham.”

He endorsed Republican Representative Mark Sanford’s opponent in a contested primary by bringing up Sanford’s extramarital affair, and then, after Sanford lost, boasted about how he had mocked him in a meeting with House Republicans.


Off Twitter, he again referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren with a racial slur — “Pocahontas.”

Trump’s incivility is not restricted to name-calling. He also likes to impugn in ways that are both dishonest and malicious.

On repeated occasions he has said that Democrats “don’t care about crime!” and are “extremist open border Democrats.”

According to Trump, “open borders, where anyone can come into our Country, and stay . . . is Nancy Pelosi’s dream.”

He said Pelosi and Schumer “want to protect illegal immigrants far more than the citizens of our country.”

And he also tweeted, “They . . . want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”


He accused Democrats of telling “phony stories of sadness and grief” about children being separated from their parents because they hope “it will help them in the elections.”

He tweeted that Democrats are “obviously rooting against us in our negotiations with North Korea. Just like they are coming to the defense of MS 13 thugs.”

And he’s gone after “the haters & losers” who have been critical of his North Korean diplomacy.

He’s repeatedly attacked the “Fake News” media; “The Failing and Corrupt @nytimes”; and the “13 Angry Democrats” he claims are responsible for the Russia investigation.

To bring things full circle, he said the Red Hen restaurant that kicked Sanders out should “focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows” rather than shunning Sanders.


This is just a sampling from the past month — and I left out a lot of stuff.

Going further back, he has regularly impugned the patriotism of Democrats because of their alleged opposition to military spending. He said during the 2016 campaign that he wanted to “punch protesters in the face,” or “knock the crap out of them.”

Then there are all the other people he has personally attacked: Democratic members of Congress, former POWs, disabled reporters, Gold Star mothers, kneeling black football players, and the Pope. “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Little Marco” Rubio, “Crazy” Bernie Sanders, “Dumb as a rock” Mika Brzezinski, and “Sleepy Eyes” Chuck Todd are just a few of the other slurs that Trump has used.

It’s easy to become inured to this constant drumbeat of nastiness and vulgarity. Trump’s name-calling, petty insults, and vile attacks are the soundtrack of our political discourse.

And no one benefits if Democrats begin following Trump’s childish path, although shunning enablers of the president is less evidence of incivility and more an example of appropriate political protest. But whatever the case; let us not forget who cast the first stone — and continues to cast them daily.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.